Alter The Press!


Interview: Patrick Stump

No longer just the singer of Fall Out Boy, Patrick Stump is the last of the band to branch out on his own and he’s started down a very different path to the angsty emo that the band were renowned for. His debut album, 'Soul Punk', is a heady blend of R’n’B, funk and electro-pop with moral undertones.

Alter The Press were fortunate enough to sit down and talk politics, confidence and hip-hop with the unbelievably talented musician.

Alter The Press: So for many people you’re the voice of Fall Out Boy but your new material is very different. Was this a conscious decision to distance yourself from that sound?
Patrick Stump: I’m not trying to distance myself from it. I’m just doing my thing and my thing is just very different. I think it’s funny because we didn’t really have any anticipation that the band would last more than a couple of weeks, let alone be the thing by which we were all defined. So it’s funny because we all love Fall Out Boy, but if you were to ask about other bands, quote unquote like that, it’s not really any of our world - Joe (Trohman, guitar) and Andy (Hurley, drums) are way more metal guys; Pete (Wentz, bass) is very into pop music and I’m very into R’n’B and soul music and jazz and hip-hop and whatever so it wasn’t like there was anything wrong with it. We were very comfortable being Fall Out Boy but being in that box was always a little bit uncomfortable. For that to be the only music we were ever going to make was really a scary prospect that you’d never get to do music you’d listen to. That’s the thing, it’s really hard to gauge because it’s impossible to be objective about your own stuff but I’d like to think that Fall Out Boy would be the one rock band that I would listen to... but I don’t listen to them because I was in it!

ATP: What do you take your inspiration from for your music?
Patrick: I don’t consciously. It wasn’t like I was planning on taking it from anywhere specific but I’d say my biggest influences are Prince and Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Tom Waits and then just R’n’B.

ATP: That’s quite a broad spectrum!
Patrick: Yeah it is! So that kind of begged the question of what stuff am I going to do right now? And I was like, ‘well I love synthesizers’ and so much of R’n’B music is built around - not necessarily lyrically sexuality - but there’s a passion to a lot of it musically and I was like ‘I’m still in my twenties and I can get away with it right now I think’. When you’re older and trying to do some really sexy R’n’B music that sounds kinda weird so I might as well front load with that. Not to say that I think that any of my stuff is going to sound exclusively like one artist but a lot of my stuff that more openly pays homage to Tom Waits or David Bowie or Brian Eno or whoever... I can get to those things a bit later.

ATP: 'Soul Punk' was due for a February release but it got pushed back. What happened there?
Patrick: I dunno. That’s always out of your hands. First off the American label went through big, big changes. A lot of people got fired and a lot of people changed or whatever so that took a while and slowed things down. Also, I dunno, when you’re an artist and you make artistic decisions sometimes they can be seemingly small things but if you do enough of them... It’s kinda like being on the runway for the plane where if you miss your window by 10 minutes you miss your window by 3 hours you know what I mean? That happens a lot in the music industry.

ATP: It seems that some of the songs have a moral theme. Were you trying to bring a message with those songs?
Patrick: Yeah. One of the things that attracted me to punk rock in the first place was the idea of talking about things. That’s something that good soul music also did. When I look at Curtis Mayfield everything he ever wrote was talking about something, y’know? So I really wanted to discuss some things. The vast majority is about greed and xenophobia - I think that those are the root causes of most of the world’s problems right now. So The ‘I’ in lie isn’t actually about cheating it’s about selling yourself out, I used the whole thing as a metaphor as selling out your virtues. Ultimately romantic cheating works as an example but I think a greater thing is when you totally sell out everything you ever believe in and exchange it for money or whatever. Almost all the record deals with morals. In various ways too. It’s also a personal record in a lot of ways. While I was working on the record a few friends and family died so it was a little bit dealing with that and a little bit dealing with their politics and where my politics diverged with theirs. So there’s a little bit of personal in there as well but overall, lyrically is primarily about morals.

ATP: Do you find that R’n’B and hip-hop doesn’t really have that anymore?
Patrick: I definitely think it’s something that has fallen by the wayside a little bit - certainly in pop music. That was something I really wanted to do. For example 'This City' is pretty lyrically simple, I didn’t really give people too much. There’s all these songs about your city, y’know - it’s a big thing right now “oh I love my city whatever” - I wanted to dissect that from a perspective of morality and still have it work as a pop song. I guess my goal is that if I can get some songs about things on the radio that would mean a lot to me. It already does, the fact that 'This City' is doing pretty well means a lot to me because I get to discuss things. I don’t want to be too overtly political but it bums me out how cynical we are and how hopeless we are and whatever. I feel like we can do better.

ATP: You were quite vocal in the Obama movement, how do you think he’s doing now because it almost seems the tide has turned.
Patrick: Oh my goodness. Americans are so bitter about Barack Obama and the thing is most Americans don’t understand how little power the president has directly so they say things like “Oh he hasn’t given us jobs!”. Well he can’t give you jobs, that’s not what he does, that’s not his job. He can do his best to introduce legislation and ultimately campaign to have certain things passed but he doesn’t really have all that much power. Everyone is like “Oh well the economy is doing so bad and he’s the president right now so it has to be his fault!”. But it’s like no man, the economy takes years and years and years to have any effect and we’re still only in his first term. Hopefully he gets a second chance but Bush administration’s spending and tax policies and deregulation of banks and things like that are still what we’re experiencing right now world wide. It’s a bummer hearing about Obama right now because no one has anything nice to say about the guy and I really think he’s a great president. I’m still proud of him. I’m still very happy that he’s there. All this does come into the record though because that’s something I've definitely discussed on the record and in different things. We’re so cynical about hope and change. I still believe in those things. That wasn’t just a bumper sticker, I really believed in it when I voted for it and I believe that change hurts. It’s gonna be something that’s not the easiest to do. It’s gonna be a lot of people having to give up things or whatever.

ATP: Well the Tea Party in America seems to be taking off though, does that worry you?
Patrick: That’s another thing. There’s no such thing as black and white and good and bad when it comes to political views. There is plenty of value in conservatism. Just because I'm not personally doesn’t meant that I’m going to totally disregard it or anyone that is conservative. I’m not going to ignore them. I think that’s another thing I am dealing with on the record because the idea of co-operation and we have to co-exist. We have to deal with each other so everyone’s going to have to compromise a little bit.

ATP: Is it true that you played all the instruments on the album yourself? What prompted that?
Patrick: Yeah! It actually wasn’t that hard because it’s all up here (points to his head). It’s really easy. I was reading something about video games - because I don’t play a lot of video games - about how so much of it is about the hope of mastering the skill. Every level is like well I have to do this, then this, then this in sequence. I feel like, to a certain extent, that’s my video game: playing music and playing instruments. I’m not the best trumpet player but I will sit there all night and [keep missing it but finally get it] and build on it from there. It ends up going real fast. I think the best work you can ever do is the work where you don’t realize you’re doing it. That’s how I feel about playing all the instruments and stuff. It’s just fun for me I’m not even thinking about it.

ATP: Is it also easier for you to just play it yourself than try to explain it to someone else?
Patrick: Oh yeah absolutely. That’s it. That’s a great point. That’s another reason why. The time’s where it’s great to have other musicians is where you don’t have an idea. When you have an idea it’s kind of hard to work with somebody because you know exactly what you want. I have pretty decent rhythm so you can fake a lot of instruments if you have some decent rhythm.

ATP: So is that how you will be doing future albums or was this a one-off to get it out of your system?
Patrick: I have a really good live band that I’m really into so I may start incorporating them into a lot of it as I go on and make more records. I wanna do a lot of different things. I was kinda thinking that the flip side of doing something like that would be to do a record totally live. Not a live record or in front of a studio audience or something, I mean do a live record where no one does it that way anymore. Like Sinatra used to do where the orchestra’s behind you and here you go. There’s a microphone, press record.

ATP: What’s been the hardest part about going solo now that the focus is just entirely on you?
Patrick: The hardest part is getting people to listen to it on it’s own merit. Right now I have a lot of die hard Fall Out Boy fans who really like me as part of Fall Out Boy so they like my record. In a way that doesn’t really feel entirely valid to me because I don’t know how much they really like the record and how much is just ‘I’ll support you in whatever you do’.

ATP: It seems that you’ve come into your own lately. Do you feel like you’re who you want to be now? Are we seeing the real Patrick Stump now?
Patrick: Yeah and it’s more importantly who I am. That’s the thing. You’re not your clothes and you’re not any of those things but the reality is that I get to express myself a lot more now. I’m kinda confident now? It’s also more like ambivalence to a lot of negative criticism and to non-constructive criticism. When someone just has mean things to say about you it hurts your feelings a lot when you’re younger and more susceptible to it but after a while you just realise ‘you’re just bitter, man. I don’t even think you believe what you’re saying right now’. So I think you start to get a little bit less worried about that.

'Soul Punk' is out October 18th.

Chantelle 'Kiki' Goodchild

Alter The Press!